Wednesday, 5 December 2018

DB Trip Report 22-26 November 2018

218 429 propels the 10:06 Fussen - Munich through farmland at Weizern-Hopferau. 23/11/2018 
With the end of the year approaching and some unused leave it was definitely time to make one last trip out of the UK. With some unfinished business on the Fussen line from last December and the impending end of DB class 218 'Rabbits' on the line it was time to head once again to Bavaria!

Thursday 22nd November:
218 401 leads 218 404 at Memmingen with a EuroCity. Note the unfinished
catenerary equipment which has appeared on this route. 22/11/2018
Touch down from our very affordable flight into the little airport at Memmingen was on time and the 12:55 bus to the station was made quite comfortably. The afternoon was beautifully sunny but with only a few hours until darkness there was really no useful move to take advantage of it. The station here has changed significantly since my last visit with overhead wires now at an advanced stage of construction- the days of diesel haulage here are definitely numbered. 218 401 and 404 pause with a Switzerland bound EuroCity before we board a unit to Kempten and then back up to Kaufbeuren. Here 218 415 was photographed heading down to Fussen before 218 446 then pulled in with our train to Munich.

In a view not dissimilar to my first trip to Munich in 2015, peak hour departures wait to leave Munich Hbf with 218 420 ready to work the 16:52 Munich- Kempton while a class 111 electric waits its next duty. 22/11/2018

218 415 approaches Kaufbeuren in glorious
sunshine with a Fussen service. 22/11/2018
On arrival at Munich Hbf there were a few more Rabbits than I was expecting from my diagrams (maybe I was missing some Kempten diagrams?) with 218 497 on the 16:38 to Memmingen and 218 420 on the 16:52 to Kempten. A couple of 111's were also noted around despite the Twindexx invasion. None of these 218's were required, and as it turned out neither were the ones on my next move the 17:05 to Muhldorf which produced 218 418 and 218 403. Having been to this part of the world a few times I wasn't expecting many winning locos but did make a plan to pick up the two that had been seen on the EuroCity earlier which *were* required.
120 114 has brought in stock for the NightJet to Rome. 22/11/2018
Unfortunately things all went wrong when the 17:05 Muhldorf lost almost 10 minutes between Munich Ost and Markt Schwaben missing my S-Bahn connection back to the Hbf. To make matters worse the next train pulled in which might have got me back in time- only an announcement was made in German followed by most people getting off. I followed, and the train then seemed to depart towards Munich! Oh dear! There was still a small chance of getting back for the 18:33 to Zurich on a +4 off the next S-Bahn but this was thwarted when that failed to turn up! To make matters worse my friend then called me to ask where I was as he was on the train! All I had achieved was a 50 minutes fester in the cold at Markt Schwaben! During the wait 218 463 and 218 419 were seen on the 17:21 Munich - Simbach and 418 438 was seen on the 17:48 to Muhldorf- a few winners in there! Oh well, at least the train I would take back would have a loco, even if a 245. Unfortunately it was 245 009, one of the few I did not require!
The next 50 minute fester was and Munich and not quite so bad, at least netting some photos including 120 114 bringing in NightJet 295 to Rome.
I still had one chance left for a winning loco, the 19:52 to Fussen where we were staying. Alas it was not to be- 218 415 not being remotely required. Possibly my first day of foreign trains without a winning loco...?

Friday 23rd November:
218 429 at Weizern-Hopferau with the 07:52 Munich - Fussen. The weather had dawned beautifully crisp but sunshine soon melted the frost and cloud cover built by afternoon. This image has had some enhancement in photoshop to bring out the frost and also remove a cable which follows the line in many locations. 23/11/2018

It was a dash after breakfast to get to Fussen station for the 08:06 Munich which we would take out for some photos on the branch. The weather forecast had been mixed but the day had dawned perfectly crisp and clear. Less helpfully our chosen train had produced a DMU! At least it wasn't one we would be photographing this morning, but did mean only two 218's would now be working on the branch.

218 446 is nearing journey's end with the 09:52 Munich - Fussen 23/11/2018
My main objective for this trip was to repeat the shot I had taken in a blizard last year at Weizern-Hopferau, but hopefully in more favourable conditions! This was achieved with 218 429 working into Fussen and back out on the 10:06 to Munich. Another fair walk for a picture of 218 446 on the next Munich train 2 hours later. Unfortunately the clouds had already started to encroach by this point and after a couple of photos of this train there was clearly little point staying on the branch (especially with a 4 hour gap until a rabbit assuming the earlier DMU had not been swapped out). The move to get back down to Fussen for our bags surprisingly produced one of the new Bayerische Regiobahn (Transdev) DMU's which are taking over this line at the timetable change on an Augsburg train, presumably the unit crew training and providing the service on behalf of DB. The train was fine (just no rabbit!) but running even later than the 5 minute delay we had become used to. This left us a precarious +3 to run into town, pick up our bags and jump back on the same unit to Munich- I'm pleased to say we made it!

218 446 heads north now through the Bavarian countryside with the 12:06 Fussen - Munich. 23/11/2018

By Biessenhofen the weather was very much cloudy, but the opportunity was still taken to photograph a few more trains here including 218 435 on the Oberstdorf IC and a couple of 223's on ALEX services. We never did work out why some were top and tailed.
223 063 speeds north at Bissenhoffen on a Lindau - Munich Alex. 23/11/2018
Light fading further it was time to head back towards the city and taking a DMU to Buchloe nicely landed us on the EuroCity back to Munich- and time to finally get the red pen out picking up 218 401 and 404 which had been missed so badly the previous day! In Buchloe there was even time to pick up a nice Allgaurer dunkel beer to celebrate. As the EC rolled in there was one of those wonderful moments which still happen several times at Buchloe where multiple 218's converge. From the north a set of lights appeared, and then another as arrivals from both Augsberg and Munich appeared with Rabbits as these pulled into the platform simultaneously the pair of locos on the EC also came into view giving us 4 of the classic diesels all converging- certainly a sight for sore eyes!

218 463 waits departure with the Fridays only
18:05 Munich - Muhldorf 23/11/2018
Back in Munich there was time to play the Muhldorf line a little better and actually pick up some winners- 218 438 on the 17:48 Muhldorf (taken to Ost) before dropping back onto 218 463 on the Fridays only 18:05 Muhldorf. At Dorfen Bahnhof we dropped back onto 245 008 getting us to Munich for a much needed shower and dinner at the usual excellent Augustiner brauhaus.







Saturday 24th November:
114 028 terminates at Bietigheim-Bissigen in a patch of sunshine. 24/11/2018

At the extremities of Ulm station 218 487 arrives ready to
work the next RE service to Aalen. 24/11/2018
This was always expected to the poorest day for weather of the trip and having already largely written it off for photography it was time to go in search of some more locos. The aim for the morning was the vice turn between Ulm and Aalen which had been reported on the europeanrail e-mail group. After a comfortable ICE trip to Ulm we were rewarded with 218 487 on two N-wagens. A good result though now we had finally found some stock with windows we also found what must have been the world's quietest rabbit!!!
At Aalen we should have dropped nicely on onto a 120 to Stuttgart, however interloper 101 047 turned up instead, the only circuit on the Nuremburg - Karlsruhe not to produce a 120! Ah well!
111 137 catches a patch of sunlight at Bad Canstatt. 24/11/2018


101 047 at Aallen on what should be a 120 turn! 24/11/2018
It is fair to say that Stuttgart station has changed a bit in the 10+ years since I last visited. In the main part a large part of it has disappeared into a large hole!!! There are still plenty of locos up for grabs here and after a few photos a quick spin was make with 111 078 and 111 091 to Bad Canstatt. Next it was time for some Trabbis with 112 169 taken up the Necker valley. With the weather improving a bit of photography was considered- before being discounted again when the clouds appeared in full force! 114 032 was picked up onwards to Bad Friedrichshall before 114 028 was taken back towards Stuttgart.

111 087 terminates its train at Neu-Ulm. 24/11/2018


There was just time for another quick spin with the 111's picking up another winner in 111 137 before it was time to think about getting back to Munich. None of the options were ideal, the stopper to Ulm producing a 146 rather than the hoped for 111 and the IC option producing a 101 rather than the 120 we had hoped for. Either way the IC seemed the least painful option and 101 028 was taken to Aalen before 218 487 took us on the vice back to Ulm. Just time for a quick desperate spin to Neu-Ulm with 111 087 before another ICE whisked us back to Munich.
Dinner again was at the Augustiner brauhaus before a dancing establishment was found. It actually turned out to be very good and being less than a 10 minute walk from our hotel it would have been rude not to stay out until 3am!



Sunday 25th November:
218 411 emerges from the rather unwanted fog at Weizern-Hopferau
with the 08:40 Munich - Fussen 25/11/2018
The weather forecast was for fog and that is indeed what we woke up to at a time that was frankly too early. Before going out the previous night we had been intelligent enough to look at the loco diagrams and realised that there was a morning flurry of 218 activity on the Fussen line with 4 locos involved. Since this line was the reason for the trip it seemed a good idea to try a few more photos and hope the fog lifted. 218 446 was our stead once again on the 07:52 Munich - Fussen. A bit of sleep was caught up on heading down the branch and as we neared its conclusion it did start to look as though the fog might actually lift! Incredibly as we arrived into Weizern-Hopferau conditions were almost perfect full sun- we had made the right call!

218 429 approaches Weizern-Hopferau with the 09:52 Munich - Fussen. There is no indication here that most of this route was covered in thick fog into which we would soon return! 25/11/2018

218 466 waits in the fog at Munich Hbf ready for its trip to Fussen. 25/11/2018
Arriving at our first photospot the scene looked great, frost on the ground, fog hanging in the trees and bright sunshine. It wasn't to be as the fog rolled back in ruining our shot of 218 466 returning. Next up was 218 411 which had worked the 08:40 Munich - Fussen. It wasn't the shot we had planned, but emerging from the fog into the sun a striking image was achieved all the same. Finally the shot we had tried for, all be it without the frost which had now melted was achieved of this loco returning. We managed one more nice sunny shot with 218 429 on the 09:52 from Munich before deciding to move further up the line.

The fog having cleared we got the shot we had lined up with 218 411
heading from Fussen to Augsberg- a 218 turn still existing on this route
on Sundays only. 25/11/2018
It turned out this was to be our last shot as just 10 minutes up the line the fog returned with a vengeance and we never saw the sun again! With our flight home in the evening from Nuremburg the decision was taken to call it a day with the Fussen line, happy with what we had got, and head north. There was one more scoop on the way with 218 411 which was required and now working between Augsburg and Fussen, having taken 218 429 up to Buchloe (for another passing Rabbit moment with it meeting the EuroCity) we then took 218 411 back to Kaufbeuren to get it in the book before our DMU move back to Munich. It was a pleasant surprise to find the DMU from Kempten turn up with Dostso's and 218 497 on the back! Definitely a good move!

143 358 waits at Nuremburg with an S2 service to Roth. 25/11/2018
It was a dash again back at Munich Hbf to pick up our bags and board an ICE to Nuremburg in just 6 minutes, but again made fairly comfortably. Now under darkness there was just enough time for a quick S2 Trabbi move picking up 143 358 and 143 336 before paying some attention to the hired-in Vectrons which are currently working the two hourly regional service between Nuremburg and Sonneburg. These locos are used on the service due to the necessity for ECTS which is used on the high speed part of the route from Bamburg to Sonneburg. By taking the 17:10 to Bamburg the other set could then be picked up on the return netting 4/5 of the locos which work in top-and-tail formation. Performing today were 193 602/4/5/6.
Had we not found a shop with a huge array of Christmas Milka chocolate treats we might have had one more run on the S2 but the chocolate prevented it! A very quick wander into Nuremburg (which was more than we managed in Munich) showed it to be a very nice city. Before too long it was definitely time to jump on the U-bahn to the airport enjoying one of the nice old DT1 sets on the U1 route in the process.
Multiple rabbits at Buchloe! Several times a day several trains arrive together for various destinations. Back in the fog 218429 is headed for Munich, while 218 401 and 218 404 head a Euro City bound for Switzerland. Electrification masts have sprung up here but full wiring has not yet begun. 25/11/2018

Conclusions:

Bayerische Regiobahn trains have been testing on the Fussen line in
passenger service (in lieu of DB trians) in preparation for the take over of
services with the December timetable change. These new DMU's will spell
the end of class 218 operations on the Fussen line and reduce the work for
the remaining Kempten based machines considerably. 25/11/2018
I always enjoy this part of the world, though it is fair to say that the weather and short days at this time of year can be somewhat limiting! Fortunately there was enough sunshine to feel that the main objective - photos on the Fussen line, was achieved. Certainly it is sad that just two weeks after our visit these locos would be leaving the route, reducing again the number of 218's operating in Bavaria. What will happen to the 218's displaced from this route remains to be seen but with electrification via Memmingen together with the Sudbahn from Ulm to Lindau it really does feel now that the 218's are well on their way out in this part of the world. Hopefully the peak hour Muhldorf trains and IC work to Oberstdorf might keep a few running for a couple more years yet. Aside from the rabbits it was good to get a few more locos in the book and generally enjoy my favourite brauhaus. Thanks also to Rhys for the company and for 'definitely not' coming out on Saturday night!
218 429 winds its way towards the mountains and the terminus of Fussen. 25/11/2018

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Passenger 37's Swansong

37401 'Mary Queen of Scots' leads 2C45 09:18 Barrow-in-Furness - Carlisle away from St Bees. 15/11/2018.

In fading light 37409 'Lord Hinton' arrives into Seascale
working 2C33 15:31 Barrow - Carlisle. 15/11/2018
In years to come will we look upon autumn 2018 as the swansong of class 37 passenger operation in the UK? Right now there are two areas of passenger operation using veteran class 37/4's; in Cumbrian and in Norfolk. Each weekday four class 37's are available to travel behind on two scenic (but very different) routes. New orders of DMU's are on their way however and by this time next year both of these operations are likely to have finished- potentially also bringing the end of booked mainline passenger trains with the popular class 37's. Both routes offer some stunning journeys and great photographic opportunities but those wishing to enjoy these trains need to act fast!

37401 complete with enthusiastic driver leads 2C59 14:52 Barrow - Carlisle away from Seascale and towards Sellafield. This is the only northbound train (with loco leading) that can be photographed by the sea at this time of year in reasonable light- and then only on the brightest of days. 15/11/2018

In less bright conditions 37409 works 2C59 the following day seen near
Kirby in Furness. The namesake of the locomotive 'Lord Hinton' was a
nuclear scientist and engineer responsible for the construction of Calder
Hall Power Station, the first large-scale commercial Nuclear Power Station
and today part of the complex at Sellafield which provides much trade to
the route and employment in the area. 16/11/2018
In Cumbria class 37's have worked some services between Carlisle and Barrow-in-Furness (and previously Preston) over the spectacular Cumbrian Coast line since 2015. For a period this year complaints about the class 37's resulted in one of the two diagrams switching to more modern class 68 operation, but increased loco requirements during autumn have led to the 37's being back firmly in charge for the final months of this operation. In January 2019 the class 37's are scheduled to disappear for good on passenger trains on this line, replaced by DMU's which will be displaced from electrification project and the first deliveries of class 195 DMU's from CAF. I was lucky to spend 3 days on the line during November, with 37401 and 37409, both now resplendent in heritage BR Large Logo blue providing power for the trains. This is certainly not the best time of year for photography, but even on the dullest of days this route has a certain beauty. If you have not yet enjoyed the ride around the coast behind a loud class 37 then time is really running out!

2C46 09:03 Carlisle - Barrow-in-Furness is pushed by 37409 'Lord Hinton' on the approach to St Bees. This is a higher vantage point in the same area as that used for the photo of 37401 at the top of the page. Both 37 hauled trains will pass at St Bees at the end of this single line section. After a brief inland interlude southbound trains again hug the Irish Sea between St Bees and Seascale.

37419 leads the Anglian 'Short Set' into Brundall working 2P20 12:36
Norwich - Great Yarmouth on a beautiful autumn day. The semaphore
signals as well as the manually controlled crossing gates here will be
swept away by the current re-signalling scheme. 13/11/2018.
The loco hauled operation in Norfolk running on the Wherry lines between Norwich and Great Yarmouth / Lowestoft has a little longer left to run than it's northern counterpart. Greater Anglia anticipate using their 'short set' top and tailed by class 37's for the duration of 2019 until new class 755 Bi-mode DMU's arrive to work regional services. These trains have been running on and off for an extended period, originally with class 47's providing the power and covering for poor availability of DMU's. The operation here is very different to that in Cumbria with two locos top and tailing the train instead of the push-pull operation used by Northern. The length of the journey is significantly less and the scenery an awful lot flatter! (No mountains out on the Norfolk Broads!). Like Cumbria this railway has a lot of charm complete semaphore signals controlled from manual signal boxes- though these are due to be swept away in a re-signalling scheme in early 2019. Certainly the Wherry Lines will be changing over the next couple of years- again time is running out to sample this fantastic loco hauled operation, which will certainly be missed by the enthusiasts.

'Heavyweight' 37716 breaks the monopoly of 37/4's on the passenger workings as it leads 2P21 13:17 Great Yarmouth - Norwich away from Brundall Gardens. 37/4's are required on all trains for their train supply, however the top and tail set can use one 'no heat' locomotive and 37719 has been modified for these operations accordingly. 13/11/2018

Sunday, 28 October 2018

South Wales Mainline

Now off-lease 43175 leads a Swansea - Cardiff HST for Great Western Railway through Undy - 07/09/2018

70810 has recently emerged from the Severn Tunnel with the Moorswater -
Aberthaw cement working- 07/09/2018
The South Wales Mainline is one of those places I had thought about coming to for years- Back in the mid-noughties when I was coming to sample rugby specials to Cardiff, and or course the 37's on the Rhymney valley it always looked as though there were some good spots with a good variety of traffic. Like so many things though the distance just meant it never happened. By 2018 the views should all have been impossible as the Great Western electrification program would have brought poles and wires to all of the classic locations. Of course we all know now how late that project has run, and amazingly while travelling up to a wedding in Wales in September 2018 my opportunity finally came to check out a couple of the spots.

Arriva Trains Wales 158822 heads west at Magor - 07/09/2018
Traffic has changed somewhat from when I first eyed up these locations more than 10 years ago. EWS has gone through several incarnations and is now DB Cargo- it's class 60's which were once common in South Wales now number only a few examples and oil traffic between Roberston and Westerleigh is now the only reliable traffic to feature the class. Colas Rail has also entered the scene with a regular flow of cement between Aberthaw and Moorswater- usually handled by it's class 70 locomotives. In freight terms one of the most notable losses of traffic is coal- some traffic still exists in South Wales, but as with most of the UK the traffic has declined to only a tiny percentage of what existed only a few years ago.
Still a good bet for a class 60 - the Westrleigh - Robeston empty tanks is in the hands of 60091 at Undy. 07/09/2018

The face of the future - GWR IEP 800020 'Elizabeth Ralph' speeds towards
Newport and Cardiff. These trains will make full use of the electrification
once works are finally completed sometime in 2019. - 07/09/2018

























On the passenger front the most notable change is the almost elimination of the HST fleet over the last 12 months as the much delayed InterCity Express trains have finally started to be deployed in large numbers on their former Great Western routes. At the time of this trip only a handful of HST's reached Cardiff - My joy at capturing one of them in full sun conditions felt quite strange given these trains were two-a-penny just a few months earlier! Further changes will be evident in the passenger fleet in the coming years as Transport for Wales have now taken on what was previously the Arriva Trains Wales franchise- promising a new livery and many new trains.

43018 leads only the second HST in a long stint on the South Wales Mainline.
Sadly not a complete set in the new GWR Green. The location at Magor is
still free from OHLE equipment- but for how much longer? 07/09/2018

As can be seen from the photos electrification is continuing here, and it is only a matter of time until many of these photo spots are lost for ever- however there are still some clear views, and with electrification of the South Wales Mainline now not expected to be completed until the second half of 2019 there may be a little bit of time left still - but you will have to be quick!


Thursday, 11 October 2018

FS HZ Trip Report 13-21 September Italy and Croatia

E656 462 skirts the Sicilian coast near Taormina working ICN1959 towards Siracusa. 15/09/2018
Introduction:
HZ 2044 008 heads south with a Perkovic - Split 'local' - 18/09/2018
Once you get into the game of European Trains there just never seems to be enough time to fit everything in that you would like to. The list of places to visit and things to see seems to grow exponentially- and therefore with far too much to fit into 2018 than there was time for, this trip was born. There were three main aims, all of which could have been trips on their own. Firstly the threatened e656's seeing out their final days in passenger service on Sicily followed by the train ferry to the mainland. The second target was the D445's working out of Florence, the last passenger diesels in Italy and a new class for me. A short hop across the Adriatic would then bring us to Split for some action with the Croatian 'Kennedy' diesels. All in eight days, with a total of 10 people involved in various parts of the trip, none of whom were all known by any one person... what could possibly go wrong!?

E676 435 stands at Siracusa with IC1956 to Rome. 13/09/2018

Thursday 13th September - London to Riposto.
E652 047 heads north with a freight well timed freight. 15/09/2018

The day started earlier than I had anticipated when I booked the flight with the first members of the group meeting in London to make the trek across to what was a new airport for me; (London!) Southend for our Air Malta flight to Catania. Much as I deplore online check in it's lack of existence for this flight was even worse with a massive queue at check in! With the long duration of this trip we all had hold luggage and after depositing this proceeded to security. The belt police were on duty and I was duly gripped for forgetting I was wearing one- fortunately my folly was forgiven as one of my friends bags was sent the other way for a 'random search'. This all done we boarded our flight and I caught up with some sleep while those with longer legs than myself tried to find somewhere to organise their limbs.
It didn't take too long to get out of the airport at Catania from where we boarded the 'AliBus' to the station (there is supposedly a cheaper local option, but we couldn't easily find it). Our first Sicilian train was one of their graffiti-ridden EMU's which was taken to Giarre-Riposto where we would be saying. I read a recommendation for 'La Giarre' on ERG- I can't remember who's trip report it was, but thank you for a great recommendation- the accommodation was conveniently located, good value and with a great breakfast and view of Mt Etna to boot!
E656's at Siracusa 13/09/2018
Since we had already missed our opportunity to get a round trip in on the Circumetnea narrow gauge railway (also running from Riposto) we elected to go for a mileage move with an e656 on an IC working as with our photography plans we would have very few chances to actually ride behind the locos. With FIP reservations (annoyingly required even with coupons as far as I understand) purchased we waited for e656 289 to roll in on IC721 to Siracusa. In the run up to our trip it had been observed, and confirmed by journey planners, that the line beyond Catania was close for digging with busses replacing trains between Catania and Siracusa- fortunately not the case, though even so the impact on our trip would have been minimal. The plan was to get some dinner in Siracusa, but this quickly fell by the wayside after we spent a long time photographing the loco and several others which appeared at the station. We did ask if there was any chance of taking ICN1956 back to Riposto, but of course, there was not. With some food from the station buffet in hand we began to look for our return, which relied on a possibly dodgy +5 at Catania. Eventually we found the train- an Aln668! I had wanted a ride on one of these for years and actually quite enjoyed it! Our plus worked with no issue at all at Catania to put us onto e464 358 back to Riposto. The sensible thing to do would then to have been to go to bed... but instead we chose the even more sensible option of going out into town to explore, find ice cream and eventually found a wonderful wine bar by the harbour; 'Wal' comes highly recommended if you are in the area.


Friday 14th September - Circumetnea Railway.
RAL 6405 railcar on the 950mm Circumetnea railway heading towards Riposto. 14/09/2018

ADe24 Railcar at Riposto headint to refuel. 14/09/2018
We had two whole days on Sicily one to photograph the e656's and one to ride the Circumnetnea railway- with the day dawning a little on the cloudy side we decided over our very pleasant breakfast that today was the turn of the former. We made our way down the hill to the Circumetnea terminal station in Riposto for the 09:13 departure on the 950mm narrow gauge line. We knew only little about the railway before arriving (And I'll confess I only discovered it at all by checking out the area on Google Maps!). The 110km line winds around Mt Etna starting at Riposto in the east and ending at Catania in the west. The Eastern side of the route is decidedly more rural and the service here is very sparse (around 6 trains a day), while the western side has seen more investment with several sections of railway being buried in tunnels and a much more frequent service. Riding the whole circle requires a change of trains mid-way at Randazzo. The entire operation is run by DMU's- many pictures exist of ancient antiquated trains, but we were also aware that a fleet of new units by Newag of Poland had entered service. The fear was that the 'Vulcano' trains had replaced all of the ancient railcars, we were therefore pleased when middle-aged ADe24 railcar turned up for our train. While sadly not one of the older sets sitting in the shed it wasn't Polish, and had opening windows! Very cheap tickets were purchased from the office and we took our seats in the fairly lightly loaded railcar for the run up hill.
Newag 'Vulcano' unit 001 stands at Randazzo ready to work to
Catania Borgo. 14/09/2018
The unit was great fun and the scenery stunning with steep climbs, vineyards, lava flows and ocean views. We passed another unit, one of the older type, (so they do still run!) en route to Randazzo where we changed trains. Unfortunately the train forward was, as expected, one of the Newag 'Vulcano's'. What was less expected was that the train was virtually full and standing! It transpired that a coach tour was using the train for part of its journey. While the new A/C DMU was no fun the scenery was still great, and several other 'older' railcars were passed on the way down, including one pair of railcars hauling a trailer. We clearly got unlucky as the only other Newag unit we saw working at all was not until we arrived at the other end of the line at Catania Borgo. For anyone considering this line- definitely go- it's brilliant- and there are still plenty of the older units running at the moment.

IC721 heads south to Taormina behind E656 421. 14/09/2018
With the fun of the narrow gauge complete we transferred back to the FS network from Catania Central (transferring on the Catania Metro, formerly part of the Circumetnea- through tickets from the narrow gauge are valid). An e464 took us forward to Taormina where we then embarked on our trek to a few photo spots. Unfortunately the sun was still keeping its distance but it was still pretty hot. e656 298 was photographed with a northbound train ICN1962 before a short walk for the next southbound, IC721 with (I believe) e656 421. The final train of the day was a very late running ICN1959 which e656 462. With the trains finished it was then time to enjoy a beer and spend a few hours on the beach which was most pleasant! Dinner was back in Riposto where the pizzas were huge and we may have ended up back at our favourite wine bar again. At around 01:00 I decided it was time to call it a night- not everybody did. I was planning an early start in the morning!


Saturday 15th September - e656's and the Night Ferry.
E656 462 heads north with IC722 to Messina pictured near Letojanni 15/09/2018

Two railbuses and trailers at Giarre on the Circumetnea.
It was an early start to take the first service on the Circumetnea railway- the plan being to catch one of the older railcars which had avoided us the previous day. Unfortunately the 06:40 train never turned up at Riposto-Villa... The early start feeling somewhat unfulfilling! The only option was to head to Giarre (next to the FS station) in the hope of photographing the return service that we would no longer be on. At the moment of almost giving up on any narrow gauge activity a 3 car train turned up formed of the old cars- we managed to hop on for the 2 minute run to Riposto-Villa but it still counts!

E464 303 heads south along the coast with a Catania train. 15/09/2018
After breakfast it was time to get on with the main part of the day- photographing the e656's in the sunshine by the sea. The morning was something of a catalogue of errors. The first was not to return to Taormina to do the shots from the previous day in sun. Instead we continued towards S.Alessio Siculo Forza D'agro for a shot we had planned- but realised en route that we would not have time to walk to the location! The best option now to save us was a +1 connection at Letojanni to get back to Taormina. Of course we missed it, and let our own train go in the process! With an e656 approaching from either direction before a gap of some 4 hours we were not in a position of strength! The only possible option was a taxi... which wasn't that easy. Once in one we still didn't exactly know where the photo was and having been dropped off at the side of a road we eventually found a path to the beach knowing the train was due any moment. Somehow making it to the beach, it then dawned us that some proper rock climbing was required to gain the necessary height for the photo- We really hadn't anticipated that! Somehow I clambered up and within about 20 seconds of doing so the train could be heard approaching. Looking behind me to see the rest of the group scattered across a cliff and a beach I knew I was going to be in trouble as soon as I pressed the shutter on e656 462 working IC722! It's fair to say that I was...
Shortly after was e656 435 with a very backlit southbound ICN.
E656 052 passes bathers as it heads along the coast with IC724 for Messina 15/09/2018
D245 2206 Shunts E464 618 and stock at Catania. 15/09/2018
Fortunately to make up for the disappointment of the first shot we did at least get lucky with a freight with e652 047 heading northbound having been spied some distance away around the coast. There was then a chance to have a dip in the sea before the next flurry of activity. A couple of e464 were missed during this time as well as a southbound freight, however everyone was in position for e656 052 with IC724. Our last shot at the location was e656 462 returning south with ICN1959 (not quite so late today!). It was then time for another quick dip before the trek over the headland to finally reach the station at S.Alessio Siculo Forza D'agro to get back on a train south. Quite how we all made it I'm not sure... if it hadn't been for multiple failed attempts to dispatch the train (not even our fault) we wouldn't have done! Changing at Taormina it would be e656 289 (again) which would take us back to our bags in Riposto on IC721. e464 618 was then our chariot south to Catania to join the remainder of our group who had arrived that day.

D245 2206 prepares to shunt ICN1960 onto the train ferry at Messina. 15/09/2018
D245 2206 was a pleasant surprise shunting our train into the sidings on arrival- it was then a communication farce and metro ride to land at a very cheap but dodgy looking pizza establishment. It did the job and by the time of our departure had no beer left. By way of an even more dodgy stop to buy beer and cheap wine in a plastic bottle from some sort of restaurant that the taxi driver knew we were on the platform for e656 289 (Really!? Again!) to roll in with ICN1960 to Rome. Admittedly at the time we hadn't realised the loco was mega dud- we had beer and we were going on the train ferry. It was very exciting!

'MV Scilla' on the short hop to Villa San Giovanni.


The train ferry was everything we were expecting. We watched the train being shunted on to the 'MV Scilla' from the coach window and then proceeded to run riot around the deck photographing it from every angle. The operation of course was all very slick- the sort of thing that would take all day to accomplish in the UK! The ship itself was no disappointment either being a fairly classic run down vessel. The process was repeated on the mainland at Villa San Giovanni to disembark. It was definitely time for bed at this point and with e402 102 bolted onto the front the ear plugs went in. Shunt locos were D145 2045 on Sicily and D145 2021.
Views on board 'MV Scillia' between Messina and Villa San Giovanni.


Sunday 16th September - Florence.
D445 1113 heads south from Castelfiorentino with a service from Florence to Sienna. 17/09/2018
E402 114 on the blocks at Roma Termini. 16/09/2018

We woke shortly outside Rome having myself had probably the best night's sleep I've ever had on a train. On the blocks at Roma Temini was e402 144- our first lesson that you can only know exactly what has hauled if overnight if you stay awake for all the loco changes. Presumably the locos will have swapped at Naples. We had a short time in Rome to get a few photos (before the station completely becomes the bottom floor of a car park) before boarding a High Speed 'Frecciarosa' service to Florence. We were very impressed with the high speed train and managed a reasonable breakfast on board.

Shunting an OBB Nightjet beneath the car park
construction site at Roma Termini 16/09/2018

After checking in to our accommodation in Florence it was back to the station. Our group had two plans for the afternoon, both involving the D445's and neither turned out to be particularly successful. One group headed down the line to Borgo San Lorenzo on a DMU after the booked loco did not turn up. The others of us headed out for some photography on the Sienna line only to discover that the hourly service was more like one every 3-4 hours! After a quick one station hop with D445 1143, which was a lot more rateable than we were expecting (we had very low expectations) the afternoon was spent being tourists in Florence.






Monday 17th September - Florence to Ancona.
The closest we came to a sunny loco-leading shot- D445 1122 heads south from Certaldo bound for Sienna. 17/09/2018
D445 1091 heads south from Castelfiorentino. 17/09/
Given our sunny afternoon photos the day before did not happen it was off onto the Sienna line in the morning to do what we could before it was time to move on, taking D445 1122 on the 06:20 Florence - Sienna. Unfortunately the previous day's great light did not manifest for more than 20 minutes at sunrise- however some reasonable shots were still taken of the D445's around Certaldo and Castelfiorentino. It was good to see that many trains on this route did still have at least one coach of 'fresh air' stock, usually with a few windows which opened. The D445's seem very variable with some making a bit of noise and others being almost silent. Fortunately many of the locos were fairly clean and fairly graffiti free. Locos seen on the circuit during the morning were D445 1091, D445 1098, D445 1111, D445 1113, D445 1122,  D455 1123. D455 1100 was seen with a departure for the Borgo line.

E464 580 at Firenze S.M. Novella. 17.09.2018
It was now time to head east towards Bologna, Ancona and ultimately Croatia. The short hop to Bologna was again by Frecciarosa through the route mostly in tunnels. The transfer on to Ancona was with a traditional IC hauled by e444 096. Or at least it should have been. On the platform I went to get out my ticket to find- disaster. I didn't have it! Almost immediately I knew what had happened- I had left it in my document wallet on the table in front of me when getting of the Frecciarosa and it was now on its way to Milan with my passport, FIP and all my bookings for the rest of the trip! After checking all my bags twice and re-tracing my steps there was nothing for it but to shake hands with the group and watch them all board the IC to Ancona without me. Initially I struggled to find anyone on Bologna Central station who could assist other than being told to join a massive queue at the Information Centre- not really an option when time is of the essence.
E444 096 which I would not be boarding at Bologna Centrale.
Eventually I found somebody who told me to try the station police who could phone the train. I wasn't convinced, but I found their office and have to say they could not have been more helpful. The train was called and within 5 minutes my documents located. Now just the small problem that they were next stop Milan and I had a boat to catch! The police seemed to think this would be no problem and recommended the best Neapolitan Pizza restaurant in London to me before sending me to the Customer Information queue to arrange a rendezvous with my documents. The good news was that they would put them on the first train back from Milan- the bad news was that that by the time they arrived the next train to Ancona would put my arrival long after the ferry check in closed (and I had heard that was not a quick process). Anyway- that was the next problem and plan B was already formulating in my head of how else I could get to Croatia and meet the group- for now I had 3 1/2 hours on Bologna Central station. Perfect. Except that aside from a procession of e464's and units there was virtually no loco hauled action and no sign of any freight. Eventually the nervous wait got too much and I ventured with my big rucksack into the city for a bit of sightseeing and my daily ice cream. A little while later I made my way to meet the inbound train from Milan... and there it was, a brown envelope with 'Document' written on it being exchanged. All that was left now was to follow the incredibly slow member of station staff through the labyrinth of the station to the booking office where my identity could be confirmed and by some miracle everything was back in my hands! Hat's off to FS for that- a very nice e-mail will be coming your way.
A Frecciabianca pauses at Bologna Centrale. 17/09/2018
Now with just an hour to go I was on a Frecciabianca bound for Ancona. Of course we stopped for no apparent reason on the outskirts of Bologna to make me even later. My friends had already checked in and despite much poking fun (probably deserved) advised that I might just make the boat if I was quick and got a taxi straight from the station. Somehow I did. My postcards would have to deal with being posted in Croatia instead. Check in was quick and I was somehow on the courtesy bus out to the SNAV boat 'Aurelia Cagriali'. I'm not sure who was more astounded that I had made it and was now about to watch the lights of Ancona vanish into the distance. Don't lose your passport and all your documents boys and girls... it isn't fun! I was extremely lucky.

Dinner was in the on board self-service restaurant- and was alright. The boat was nothing special but perfectly fine for an overnight crossing provided the A/C in your room worked. What was not alright was the entertainment in the bar which started as the worst disco music you could ever imagine, complete with coach loads of old folk on the dance floor to it, and progressed to the ship's crew singing karaoke. It was enough. We took our bottles of SNAV wine (or had we moved onto Prosecco by this point?) out on deck and there we remained. I retired around 01:00... some of the others didn't!
Leaving Italy on board SNAV's 'Aurelia Cagriali'. Jadrolinija operates a competing service across the Adriatic.

Tuesday 18th September - Split
A glorious view after our wake up call on the arrival into Split. The station is in the centre behind the port.
2044 007 and 2044 008 line up at Split, the former having worked in
overnight from Zagreb while 008 waits to depart with the 07:40 local service
to Perkovic- this duty nominally being booked for a DMU. 18/09/2018.
Several of the group were certainly feeling a little worse for wear as the wake up call went out across the SNAV boat heralding our arrival into Split- while I had departed for bed around 01:00 some of the gang had been up until 05:00! The sky was cloudless, it was clear that it was going to be another gorgeous day- confirmed by the presence of a 2044 shunting in the station as seen from the boat. We had aimed to make the 07:40 Split to Perkovic on which we had of course hoped for a Kennedy- both proved to be true. We left our bags outside the ferry (don't do this as the station has lockers, is cheaper and doesn't shut at 21:00!) and purchased much needed water and burek.


HZ Cargo 2062 036 and 2062 056 await freight duties at Solin. 18/09/2018
HZ's 2044 008 was power for the 07:40 local up the hill which was thoroughly enjoyed. The grippess was baffled by our decision to bail at Presio but this was in order to photograph 2044 015 which was working the 520 the 08:27 Split - Zagreb vice 'Deathtrap' and 2044 008 returning with the local. We continued the walk to Prgomet to pick up the following Local which was taken to Perkovic.



2044 008 waits time at Perkovic after having run around it's stock on the 'Local' prior to heading back to Split. 19/09/2018
123 005, one of the usual tilting 'Deathtrap' DMU's on the Split line. 18/09/2018
A quick trip to the bar definitely for a soft drink and to finally post my Italian postcards (despite the post office being 'closed') before returning with the crew for the run back down the hill. With a gap in the trains our only potion to try to get some frieght and photograph the afternoon locals was to take the train back to Labin in order to walk for a spot for the afternoon. With zero gen on any freight other than 2062 036 and 2062 056 siting at Solin we took a punt on the redcap who did produce some useful gen that there was a train heading south in around 45 minutes.
On route to location four UK rail enthusiasts got a bit of a surprise- the police turned up for a full passport grip along the side of the road as we had been reported by a local as Afghan Terrorists! Fortunately the police were in good humour and no further issue!

HZ Cargo 2062 056 pounds through Labin with a freight from Solin. 18/09/2018
The afternoon Zagreb run was in the hands of a 'deathtrap' as expected and the southbound freight never did show up- of course a northbound one did... which we were in no position for. Still good to see and hear 2062 036 hard at work slogging up the hill though. Positions were changed for the afternoon Perkovic which was 2044 008 once again cab leading. Back at Labin station we had a final treat with the other freight from Solin arriving behind 2062 056 cab leading and producing a very pleasing shot!
It was now time to wait out 2044 008 back down the hill and head into town for some dinner. After picking up some supplies and our bags we were back at Split station for 820 the 21:43 to Zagreb. Our power for the night was to be 2044 007 'James Bond' though we were not ideally placed in the sleeper at the very rear. To make matters worse the door between sleeper and day coaches was locked. Solution of course was to stand in the front coach until Perkovic before heading back to our beds- unfortunately the unhelpful conductor was having none of it and shortly after departure we were paraded back to the rear coach and locked back into the sleeper portion. Oh well- we'd just have to listen to 007 from here. Given the early arrival of 820 into Zagreb we stayed awake to Knin and then called it a night.
2044 007 'James Bond' heads train 820 the 21:43 overnight from Split to Zagreb, seen waiting departure from Split. 18/09/2018




























Wednesday 19th September - Varazdin Line
2044 021 approaches Podrute with the first afternoon service from Zagreb to Varazdin. 19/09/2018.
121 028 heads away from Madarevo. 19/09/2018
We woke on the train to daylight. We should not have woken to daylight! What had happened to make us some 2 hours late? Our unhelpful conductor returned to warn us it was 20 minutes to Zagreb and was asked the reason for the delay. The diesel loco had failed. Was a rescue loco provided? Yes. Was it a 2044? No. 2062. Do you know which one? No. So we had been rescued by a 2062, we didn't know which one and had slept through the whole event!!! Aside from this we had at least got a bit more sleep and arrived in Zagreb at a sensible time behind 1142 003.
2044 013 at Madarevo with a Varazdin - Zagreb service. 19/09/2018
After breakfast the group boarded the 08:59 Zagreb - Varazdin behind 2044 013. Shortly into the journey we were informed by the gripper that there was a bus replacement, but fortunately it turned out that this was only for the last 30 minutes of the journey beyond Nove Marov. We therefore took the Kennedy this far and then set about finding some spots to photograph both 2044 013 returning and also the following Zagreb service with 2044 021 which was photographed at Podrute. Also at Podrute was a nice little bar where a few beers were enjoyed before we returned to Zagreb with a 7121 DMU. Maybe the unit was amazing with it's opening windows and brown leather seats- or maybe it was the Tomislav talking!? Either way it was thoroughly enjoyed back to Zagreb where we checked in to our accommodation and headed out for some food and drinks.
1141 390 arrives into Zagreb. 19/09/2018


Thursday 20th September - Zagreb area
2044 013 starts away from Zabok with the 08:59 Zagreb - Varazdin 20/09/2018
2044 013 pauses at Zagreb Zapadni on it's final call en route
to Zagreb with a morning Varazdin service. 20/09/2018
Having so far secured very few photos of 2044's cab leading it was an early start to walk across to Zagreb Zapadni to view the first daylight arrival from Varazdin, this produced 2044 013 (nose leading) once again and it was then time to take a unit further down the line to photograph the arrival of 2044 020 with the 08:59 Zagreb - Varazdin. Luka was the station chosen for the arrival which proved to be a good call as there were breakfast provisions avaialble! The train was photographed with 2044 020 and boarded allowing another shot of the train departing from Zabok.

1141 019 pauses at Dugo Selo with a westbound freight. 20/09/2018

1142 006 departs Dugo Selo bound for Zagreb. 20/09/2018
A unit back to Zagreb put me in place to take the 12:49 Zagreb - Osijek in an attempt to see a few more 2044's. Unfortunately any moves between Koprivnika and Osijek are almost impossible, however it should have been a good loco hauled run down to Koprivnika and then a departing Kennedy, arriving Kennedy and electric loco back to Zagreb. I was therefore very surprised to find that the Osijek train was an EMU! Full and standing at that! Unsure quite what to do I got on anyway- it all made sense when the gripper started saying something about a bus to reach Koprivnika. I never quite worked out where the bus started but I definitely wasn't going to take it! Instead I bailed off at Dugo Selo to join another of our group photographing freight. Almost immediately a 1141 was departing and several pleasing shots were achieved over the next few hours. I returned on a service from Vinkovci which produced a 1141. Back in Zagreb in time for a final fling on the Varazdin line taking the 16:42 Zagreb to Varazdin which was of course nose first, and slightly surprisingly 2044 008 which we had enjoyed the previous day on the Split locals! We took the train to Kupljenovo where we dissappeared to a bar near the station before taking a unit back to Zagreb.
2044 008 awaits departure from Zagreb with the 16:42 to Varazdin. 20/09/2018
Trains over with for the day we headed into town for our farewell meal in the old town by way of the funicular. Plans for a 'big night out' diminished as the place seemed to be even more dead than the night before! That would help another early start the following morning.












Friday 21st September - Zagreb - London
2044 020 calls at Zagreb Zapadni with a morning arrival into Zagreb from Varazdin. 21/09/2018
2044 020 arrives into Luka with the 08:59 Zagreb - Varazdin. 20/09/2018
Still requiring some cab first photos it was another early morning walk to Zagreb Zapadni where the first of the two arrivals, with 2044 020 on the 04:20 Varazdin - Zagreb was finally cab first. Of course it would have been much better for the light had it been the second- which was again 2044 013 on the 05:24 Varazdin - Zagreb. I stuck around Zagreb Kolodvor to watch the shunt before joining those that remained of our group for a rather good breakfast! It was then a taxi to the airport for our BA flight back to Heathrow and the end of a very enjoyable and eventful 8 days on the rails (and seas!). As can often be the case with these trips- one of the most difficult journeys was from the airport home- an absolute nightmare with some buses and eventually an Uber when we really didn't want it. The adventure over I had just a couple of hours at home for a freshen up before making my way out again- this time the Caledonian sleeper to join the GB 2018 Charity Railtour up to Fort William- but that is a post for a different day!


Conclusions -
E656 289 arrives into Taormina. 15/09/2018
This trip was always going to be quite an undertaking- a large group and several areas none of us had visited before. Generally succusseful we particularly enjoyed the seaside and the sunny weather on Sicily. The e656's are wonderful and very dated looking machines now and they will be much missed when they do finally finish their passenger duties. It looks like they will survive a little longer on freight- and hopefully something worthwhile will take their place on Sicliy to justify a return trip. If it doesn't mabye the Circumetnea railway might- classic railcars still plying the route on many trains. If you have not doen the train ferry crossing from Messina to Villa San Giovanni then I highly recommend it!
D445's pass at Certaldo on the line from Firenze to Sienna. 17/09/2018

Florence was perhaps the disappointment of the trip where the photos we were after didn't really happen. I can feel a return visit being on the cards as actually I quite enjoyed the D445's, aside from this Florence in itself is beautiful!
Croatia had been on the cards for a long time and the GM 'Kennedy's' are always great entertainment. It was good to catch up with some of these big loco's again though really we all knew that we had left this trip a bit late. Much of this was made up for by the terrible availability of HZ's units this summer which have resulted in the Perkovic locals being a reliable bet for a hauled vice.
2044 015 works the 08:27 Split - Zagreb vice DMU. 18/09/2018
When the trip was planned there should have been a nice relaxed tourist day in Split, but that will have to wait for another time- again I am sure a return trip will be on the cards, next time before the 'Adria' sleeper to Budapest finishes for the season! 2044's in Zagreb are really quite hard work with only 4 return trips each day- and three of those are before you would want to be out of bed. Annoyingly almost all the 2044's at Zagreb were the 'wrong way round' for the photos we wanted, but there isn't a lot that can be done about that.
All in all a fantastic trip with great company and a fair bit of drinking as well! Cheers to Rhys, Jon 'Romeo', Rob 'Tubz', Sam 'Fatz', Stanley, James 'Saturday Kitchen', James, Lyn and Matty for all the laughs (mostly at my expense). Oh- and don't loose your passport kids!!!
2044 008 climbs the spectacular grade up from Split as it nears Labin with the afternoon run to Perkovic. 18/09/2018.